Researchers Model Canyon-Forming Floods, Discover Forming Deep Bedrock Canyons On Earth, Mars Required Significantly Less Water

18 October 2016, 11:24 am EDT By Kalyan Kumar Tech Times
Moses Coulee is a landmark in eastern Washington as a big example of bars created by outburst floods from Lake Missoula over Washington's Channeled Scablands.  ( Williamborg | Wikimedia Commons )

A new model that explains how canyons are formed from floods and other water discharges has discounted an erstwhile brim model, which harped on gushing water discharge in huge volumes having caused canyons.

The new model says flood discharges of meager intensity can also form canyons in bedrock and large floods are really not required for that to happen.

Proponents of the new model are geoscientists Isaac Larsen and Michael Lamb from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the California Institute of Technology. According to them, the model is can be used not only for Earth but also explains well the canyon formations and channels found in Mars.

The new model's core is how deep canyons are formed in bedrock under less water discharge. They cite the model's relevance as the key for understanding how planetary surfaces are modified, how early Mars' hydrology is evolving and the sudden change in climate.

Periodic updates are common among geomorphologists who study Earth's surface features and impact natural calamities like floods and catastrophic outbursts that change the surface of planets, including Earth and Mars.

New Model Answers Many Questions

For the geoscientists, their model looks more convincing as it disproves many old theories regarding the formation of "channeled scablands" in eastern Washington. They are confident that their model can be stretched for Mars as well, where deep canyon formations have been reported in basalt bedrock.

While explaining the origin of channels in the scablands, the geoscientists ruled out any huge flood discharge in their formation and asserted that there was "significantly lower megaflood discharges than previously thought."

The channels are of 650 feet in depth and 3 miles in width, and they're believed to have been formed by significantly less water discharges from floods.

Both Lamb and Larsen describe channeled scablands as "a classic landscape in the history of geomorphology" and expressed delight in offering new views on how they were formed.

That less water discharge can form canyons has been further explained by citing the case of Moses Coulee.

The old theory on canyon formation in Moses Coulee was that they were created by catastrophic floods that originated from Lake Missoula in eastern Washington 15,000 years ago.

Rejecting the ice dam break theory, the researchers the new model's hypothesis that better explains the formation of channels than the old brim model of excess water discharge.

According to Larsen, their model hinges on a low-magnitude flood origin as the basis for channels on Mars. The canyons on Mars are much bigger than the ones on Earth and it is likely that they were created by processes explained by their new model.

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